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The Skill that Saved My Business and My Marriage

If there’s something people have remarked consistently about me, it’s that I can talk about almost anything.

I am a naturally curious person.

And, in recruiting, it’s not a lie that I get a lot of excitement hearing about people’s life stories, their passions and their dreams. Occasionally, their downfalls and their struggles.  All of these things, to me are part of the tapestry of their life, and I love hearing about them.  

Being naturally curious may be my super power as a recruiter.

I also enjoy reading, spend an unhealthy amount of time on medium, and replaced my heavy metal music with podcasts and audiobooks while mowing the lawn on the weekends.  (The latter has become somewhat of a favorite past-time, which my 10-year-ago self would have actually, verbally scoffed at.)

Often, I find myself using this treasure trove of stories from different sources as an attempt to relate to people. The flow seems natural at first glance, 

“Oh, you went zip lining? Nice! I know a guy that runs a whole Zipline and ropes course. Cool place. They are expanding and they do summer camps now. I played basketball with him and his sons for years. Good people…”

From inside my own head, this seemed like a good conversation. But from an outsiders perspective, and especially from the perspective of the other person in the conversation, I had developed a problem. 

I had become a One-Upper.

I had a story for everything and everyone, and while I thought I was adding to the conversation and moving it along, in reality, I totally missed the person right in front of me because I got too busy sharing something someone else has done!  Or worse, something I have done!

What a jerk move!

We all know that person who can’t keep their mouth shut about an experience that clearly tops whatever experience you share. 

Beware The Me-Monster

Brian Regan calls this the Me Monster, and covers the phenomenon beautifully in his act, I Walked On the Moon (Amazon): 

Needless to say, when you find yourself in the company of a one-upper you feel pretty small and unappreciated after a while (like, 27 seconds).

Imagine working with or being married to one (some of you know how this is from firsthand experience)! If you have been chained to a one-upper as a desk-mate or partner, and had a chance to magically do-over that relationship, it seems most people would either opt-out of the one-uppmanship or opt out of the person altogether.

And that is what was happening for me in my life and in my work. People and relationships that were important to me were starting to move away from me, or just not invite me back to work with them.

In my marriage, this was part of some other challenges I brought that all resulted from being overly focused on myself and not what my partner was dealing with or concerned about.

The Elementary School Skill That Saved Me

To get around this problem, I began to realize I needed to do something that would:

  1. Help my mind stay quiet when others spoke
  2. Enable me to actually listen and hear the other person
  3. Recall and remember the things they discussed

As with most things, being aware that I had a problem here helped me start to look for way to fix it.

The Importance of Taking Notes

Back in 2015, I stumbled on* a linkedin post from Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group** called The Importance of Taking Notes.

In the article, which also strikes at the heart of gender disparity in the workplace, he noted how infrequent it is for him, who is a ravenous note taker, to see other executives taking notes in meetings.

He states the aside that many of the most-successful ventures he has undertaken came about because of random chance things he thought to write down. Yet, in business, note taking is somehow not seen as a smart way to It is seen as “office housework,” to quote Sheryl Sandberg, and, as Branson notes, is a fantastic skill to develop to help someone understand their business better:

“On top of counteracting gender bias in the work force, it will also give men a better understanding of what going on within the business and what needs to be done to make things run more effectively.'”

The Importance of Taking Notes by Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

So, I started consciously taking notes.

On p.a.p.e.r.***

In a hardbound notebook that I carry everywhere and can reference later.

It’s something I actually found myself good at doing, since I really had been taught to take notes since elementary school.

And, over time, I found that the process of note-taking forced me to actively listen to people as they spoke, to get the words and information they were trying to convey.

This helped my mind focus on them and what was going on, not on myself or what I wanted to say next.

That enabled me to really connect with the person I was talking with, feel with them the hard parts of what they were experiencing, celebrate with them the successes they had, and make an actionable plan that could be carried out to collaboratively solve a problem we identified.

Leveraging the brilliance of the scannable app and my Evernote account to archive and keep notes forever, a journal (with page numbers) became the final lynch pin in my note taking trifecta as I could reference items by page number or, if something was really a long project, by book and then by page number.

I used to prefer Moleskine notebooks, but more recently, I prefer the Leuchtturm 1917 dotted, numbered series journals, and the “A5” size (148 x 210 mm), which is a thing. It feels a bit like a legal sized piece of paper folded top-to-bottom, then turned on it’s side to write with.

I find the A5 book size is just enough that I have plenty of room to write most things, and I am not carrying around a huge notebook and feel like I should be headed off to school at any moment.

Note Taking Has Become A Super Power

Its been five years since I actively worked on this habit, and I would like to think it has over taken my desire to overtalk and subconsciously one-up the others in the room.

This has lead to more business deals, fantastic opportunities I have been able to execute on that came initially from scribbles on a pice of paper, and the uncanny ability to actually recall what happened in a meeting three months ago because, I wrote it down.

Clients have remarked how much they appreciate that I take notes. I have been told it helps people know I am listening, and there’s a sense that I truly must value what they’re talking about or else, “why would [I] take notes on it?”

Wait, How Did Taking Notes Save Your Marriage?

Anyone in a committed relationship will tell you that your relationship will be stronger if your partner seems to really be interested in you, listen to you, sees and hears you, and follows through on the things they said they would do.

To the letter, every one of the benefits I have found from note taking will improve your ability to be present with, care about and follow through on your commitments with your partner or loved ones.

I have even pulled out my notebook in the middle of something going on and said, “One moment. This is important to me. I am going to take some notes.”

As awkward as it may have been the first time I said that, my wife appreciates that, when I write something down, it sticks in my mind longer than the dinner menu does, and when there’s a commitment I make, I stick to it much better.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

*well, the algorithm “stumbled upon”
** disclosure: I own shares in Virgin Galactic via Robinhood.
*** mental note: why I write on paper deserves its own write up.
Some links in this article

Categories
Blog Life Lifehacks Relationship

Give > Receive

Our parents or grandparents taught us this principle, often in the middle of our requests for some grand thing.

“Grandpa” a photo of a woman kissing an old man’s cheek outside an apartment building or storefront in a busy urban environment. He smiles and you can tell she loves him.  Photo by Treddy Chen on Unsplash
grandpa”, photo by Trendy Chen on Unsplash.

At the time, we probably didn’t hear it or felt it was a cop out or distraction technique to change the subject from the thing we begged for.

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

To say I didn’t understand his urging—that giving was somehow better than receiving—is an understatement.

If you’re like me, this puffy, patriarchal principle seemed something passed down from another time, an age gone by. A time when things were scarce, not plentiful. A time when pictures were black and white, not color, and things were hard to come by, not easy to accumulate like they were in my childhood (and easier than ever now). To me, this advice was from a bygone time marked by saving everything and “making due” (whatever a 9 year old could make of that strange phrase), and of a long, faraway look in my grandfather’s eyes when he thought perhaps too much of those hard, lean times when he was a boy.

(But perhaps, they are times more and more of us may be facing again)

Of course, this proberb’s lesson, as they are wont to do, seems to sweeten and perfect itself over time.

Giving Of Your Time Actually Gives You More Time

Our rise and grind culture of worshipping at the altar of the eternal hustle dissuades this belief, but for centuries, people have found that the more you see and be with other people around you, or open yourself up to the humanity that is present when we just stop and listen for it, the happier and more abundant your life will become.

And I argue you will have more time, and you will be more productive with your time because you will be happier, think clearer and have more energy.

If you are struggling, lonely, find yourself frustrated, anxious or afraid, I am moved by the calm that can come as you pull yourself away from the tightening, shrinkingly claustrophobic cares and concerns of your own life and open your heart wider to allow the life of another.

Perhaps a forgotten friend or a struggling neighbor.

A widow or a stranger.

Even getting to know your postal worker or the Amazon delivery person, or making a concerted effort to graciously thank your DoorDash delivery person can open your heart a little wider than before.

Thanking employees your come across for working and brightening their shift as you check out from the store or buy your take out meal can brighten your day as well as theirs. If this feels challenging to you, remember that they would probably rather be (and might need to be) home caring for a loved one rather than working, but they are deemed essential and have to work instead (which carries less and less paycheck and more and more risk these days).

In times of COVID-19, many people’s support systems are shrinking smaller and smaller. Rediscovering the joy of a phone call, letters across town like a pen pal, or baked goods delivered carefully to another’s door can lighten or brighten a day, a week or a year.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

And, it turns out, giving is much, much better than receiving.

What will you give or give up today to have peace and more happiness tomorrow?

Categories
Blog Lifehacks Process Improvement Tools and Apps

Missive, How I ❤️ Thee…

This is a love letter.

A love letter to email.

Well, not exactly to email, because you, email, are a necessary evil.

This, is about my email application.

No.

My — unified messaging and communications operating system.

Missive App.

(Disclaimer: No, missive pays me nothing for this. They don’t even have an affiliate program. In fact, I pay them a fairly solid monthly subscription for my growing recruiting team. I will gladly keep paying. And, enjoying the hair I did not pull out of my own head over using plain old email tools)

Story Time

Its about 23 minutes into the zoom meeting and, the other person says, “give me a moment, that’s in my other email account…

“… ugh, I got logged out.

“OK! Sent it.

“Dang. I sent it from the wrong address. That’s not going to work.

:angry email noises:

…”

via GIPHY

Meanwhile… the hopefully polite look on my face while I witness this belies the eye twitching that is happening under the surface. Not only could this meeting have likely been an email, 80% of this meeting ended up being about email issues:

  • Not finding the mail
  • Mail in the wrong place
  • Did you get the email?
  • Did they send the email?
  • Not being cc’d on the email or otherwise not knowing the content of said email
  • Getting forwarded the email last-minute and now having to page through mind-numbingly confusing forwards to find the part of the email that matters for this meeting,
  • …all from your phone because your laptop is presenting.
  • Needing to email someone and ask a specific, detailed question
  • Emailing the person again asking them to quickly reply as we’re trying to make a decision
  • Clarifying the question we asked, since, thanks to brevity, we assumed they knew all the context of what was being asked and were forced to reply with “It depends…”
  • and so on
  • and so forth

Email issues that could have been solved if communication, not email, were the priority. ?

If I Haven’t Told You Missive Is Better Than Your Email App, Either We Haven’t Talked, or I am Being Nice

The other half of this story is that people who work with me know that, at this point in the meeting, if I have not yet brought up Missive, the email app I have been leveraging for at least three years now, it is because of an immense amount of personal strength to keep. my. mouth. shut.

Why?

Missive is like my right-hand, time-saving, boss-level communications master control center.

Missive is like my own mind, but with a better memory, and with emoji support. ?

I can’t stress enough all the ways that Missive helps me, my personal life, my family and my team through a week and, in building ConnectedWell from a literal company-of-one to a growing team with expanding partnerships and opportunities, Missive has been my most-trusted ally, by my side in that awesome, scalable, helpful-but-not-clingy kind of way we all seek from our email applications, but, sadly, most never find.

OK, Hot Shot. Why is Missive So good?

Here is a list of things my email program does effortlessly that yours doesn’t. Neener, neener.

  • Works effortlessly across any device I have, via app or browser, with zero functionality loss on mobile. Truly a mobile-first application.
  • One Login. I login with my account once and it remembers all my other accounts, gmail, gsuite, exchange, outlook, or whatever other email server you use.
  • Keyboard shortcuts. The gmail ones. Or, use your own
  • SWIPE multiple emails at once. Delete, Archive or Snooze all these junk emails at once and then, boom, inbox zero #FTW.
  • Also remembers all my inbound/outbound signatures, forwarding rules and other tweaks for each account.
  • Good search across all accounts or separate ones
  • Email templates for you or shared
  • SNOOOOOOOoooooze emails for working with later
  • You can even snooze email from the alerts that pop up on your computer or device.
  • Send emails later, as well (so you look like you were (or were not) up at 1:30am)
  • Snooze emails to come back to you after you sent them (so you can follow up). Choose to snooze only if the other person does not reply.
  • UNDO send, too, so you don’t look like this guy when you accidentally reply-to-all (see below, or here: youtube). This one is YUGE.
  • Rules and filters that make gmail rules, uh, not rule and make outlook’s rules feel like 1990s tv sitcom dramas. Cute, but really not that entertaining any more.
    • My personal favorite use of the email rules? I have a set of filters and rules that keep all email OUT of my inbox except for a few very specific times of the day (a la Tim Ferris style) so I can actually get work done.

What Happens When You Reply All

Here are some of the superpowers Missive gives my team and me:

Missive’s integrations beef up my
email superpowers ??
  • Inline email collaboration and editing (and inline sidebar chat) like a Google Doc, but in. email.
    • Let that last one sink in a little
  • Assign people and tasks to an email or just FYI them. Do not forward the email. Just @mention them in the sidebar and they have access. Boom. Instantly, to the whole thread in their screen, along with all chat messaged about it, in chronological order, as if they were the one who got the initial message.
  • Real team shared inboxes, both a general box like “[email protected]” where everyone gets a copy of messages, or a way to let everyone see the status, and replies of all other messages — so nothing slips through the cracks (and a great way to share know-how and best practices among team members)
  • Send on behalf of the team or as an individual, either all the time or just ad-hoc. For example, you could can ask me for help on an email, we collaborate on it, and then you can send the email AS ME, using my own email credentials, right from your own email app, and zeeeeero tech support or password sharing required.
  • Don’t forward an email to yourself or your trellor board or something. Send them (or your task list/trello board) an actual URL LINK to an exact email so you can click once and go right back into the content you need.
  • Ready to power up? Seamless integrations with apps you’re already using. I use their trello, todoist, pipedrive and other integrations every hour of the day.
  • Social integrations let me manage facebook, instagram and other social messages from my email app. Yeah. That easy.
  • Missive’s powerful Twillio integration powers the chat “bot” telegram like feature on this site (lower right corner), dropping site-based chats into the [email protected] team inbox as if they are emails. Try it.
  • I could also use Twillio to send SMS messages, too, fwiw.
  • Missive is actively being developed with a very responsive team (I’ve chatted with Etienne, Phillipe and Rafael frequently). Their Canny feature requests, get this, actually turn into product releases. They ship multiple times a month.

I will come back to this and add more, but for now, this is a pretty good list of reasons you should check out Missive.

Again, missive doesn’t pay me, but I gladly pay them. It’s a good app. And, for something you use 38 hours a day, you should treat yourself better than the way you’re being treated.

I’m just sayin.

Of course, how you choose to email is none of my business.

Would you like to reply?